Cameras help RCMP catch drivers who blow by school buses
Mounties in Steinbach area have charged 8 since the spring
Blowing by a school bus with its stop lights flashing carries a $674 fine, but few charges have been laid in the past because the offence is hard to prove.
"By and large, the majority have been getting away with it," said Robert Warkentin of the Hanover School Division.
"If they are going through there at 60 to 70 kilometres an hour it is very difficult to try and get all six digits of a licence plate to report that to the RCMP."
But that's changing in and around Steinbach since cameras were installed on buses last spring.
So far, RCMP have charged eight drivers who were caught on camera.
"The evidence is clear-cut," said RCMP Staff Sgt. Harold Laninga "They say a picture is worth a thousand words. I would suggest these videos are worth much more."
In the past, Laninga says, he dealt with these incidents by writing letters to drivers reported by the school division and the matter ended there. There was simply not enough evidence to lay a charge.
Warentin thinks the cameras are curbing the problem. He says an informal survey conducted during one week in September 2016 found 67 incidents of what he calls "drive-bys." That number dropped to 47 this year.
"I am hoping word is getting out. All we want is for people to stop when the red lights are flashing. There are kids entering or exiting the bus," Warkentin said
Fear turns to anger
No student in the Hanover School Division has been hit in a drive-by, but there have been some close calls where the driver had to quickly slam the door shut because an oncoming car was not slowing down.
"I've had [bus] drivers call me and you can hear it in their voice: The heart is racing. First there is the fear of what could potentially have happened and, once that settles, there's anger that people just don't get it. It's a really dangerous situation."
Laninga says there is no excuse to justify violating a bus stop sign.
"There is ample time to slow down. The amber light means slow down and prepare to stop. It does not mean speed up and try to get by quickly," Laninga said.
None of the drivers caught on camera and ticketed by his detachment have fought the fine, Laninga says.